Psycho-Social Activities in Education in Emergencies

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Helpdesk Query:

What is the evidence that psycho-social activities in education in emergency contexts help children in their education?


The EFA Global Monitoring Report for 2011 focuses on education in emergencies and recognises the importance of psycho-social interventions in addressing the negative effects of conflict, including depression, trauma, shame and withdrawal, that have devastating consequences for learning.

Schools can be good places for psycho-social programmes because they can access many children, as well as draw on existing resources and because schools supposedly offer a stigma free environment. Studies demonstrate improvements that could impact on educational outcomes indirectly, through, for example reduced anxiety, a sense of structure and meaning in the individual’s life, improved self-esteem and improved relationship with teachers.

The studies show that:

  • Keeping schools open and accessible is a key psycho-social response.
  • Safe play programmes can help children normalise their behaviour through play.
  • Running activities in schools with distinct psychological recovery components can reach many children.
  • Teacher sensitisation programmes can help children come to terms with psychological and social problems.
  • Specialised counsellors have proven to be effective.

Challenges include the following:

  • The specific circumstances in which people live make generalisations difficult.
  • There is a lack of capacity and understanding of the context among agencies to implement such programmes during and after conflict.
  • It is difficult for evaluations to attribute positive changes to actual programmes and their specific elements.
  • The limited resources available during times of conflict and post-conflict make implementing and sustaining programmes hard.


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